Investigate thoroughly before settling bias suit — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Settling with an employee who has filed a discrimination lawsuit? If the EEOC gets involved, it can continue the case on its own—and may be able to get a court to order you to take corrective measures that go far beyond your settlement terms.

That’s one good reason to conduct your own thorough investigation before you settle with the employee. That way, if the agency wants to continue on with the case, you will be prepared.

Recent case: Bethany Brandstatter, a sales representative for Novartis, quit when she received a poor performance review. Before then, she had complained to HR that her supervisor was making sexual comments to her and other female employees.

HR promptly investigated the allegations and found them to be valid. It warned the supervisor that any further comments might mean his termination. HR warned him not to retaliate against Brandstatter for complaining.

Brandstatter then claimed that the supervisor unfairly criticized her work. He, on the other hand, documented each deficiency for HR. For example, he noted that Brandstatter showed up late for meetings, failed to meet quotas and didn’t use proper sales techniques when she visited doctors’ offices.

When Brandstatter quit, she went to the EEOC, and the agency took up her case. Meanwhile, Brandstatter settled her case with Novartis.

But the EEOC asked the court to let it continue its case so it could get a court order forcing Novartis to stop any retaliation against other employees.

The court looked at the employer’s evidence and concluded that Brandstatter had not been retaliated against. It therefore said the EEOC could not continue with the lawsuit. (EEOC v. Novartis, No. 05-CV-0404, WD PA, 2008)

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